In 2018, it’s a given that a large portion of our digital activities is online, whether we’re browsing the web on our home networks, checking our email on our phone’s data network, or (even better) updating our status on the free wi-fi at our favorite coffee shop, café, or restaurant.
Public wi-fi is an especially convenient choice for being always on, all the time, and is a great alternative to using up our phone data. We can all agree that it’s great, but are you sure that public, free wi-fi you’re connected to is safe?
Hackers and other malicious organizations are always on the lookout for gaps in security they can exploit. Public wi-fi for them is a goldmine if you’re not using the right protective measures to keep your data safe. They can steal your social network passwords, get into your bank or other sensitive accounts, or even steal your personal files and photos.
There are generally three ways that public wi-fi can be exploited:
First, there are the “man-in-the-middle attacks” where hackers will create their own public network for you to access (usually with a network name similar to some café or restaurant nearby). This allows them to get all of your communication while online, as they stand in between your computer and the computer you’re connecting with through them, regardless if you’re using an HTTPS or encrypted website.
Second, hackers might be able to slip in malware if you’re not careful, software which allows them access to everything on your device, including your files and photos. They can even turn on your cameras or microphone to eavesdrop at will.
Lastly, hackers can also use wi-fi sniffing, which allows them to monitor network traffic. Here they can access the public wi-fi, and with simple software (which is not even illegal) record large amounts of data traveling across the network to be parsed later for more specific details.
All of these tricks are unfortunately easy for even an unseasoned hacker, so it’s extremely important to protect yourself. Here’s how you can keep yourself safe while still enjoying public wi-fi.
Remember to always be safe on public wi-fi. Hackers are hard workers too, so it’s best to remain vigilant.